Noru Tsalic, outlined the characteristics of the ideal flame retardant chemical:
- No environmental or health impacts in production, use, fire or end-of-life. Zero is not possible, particularly as FRs are designed to be durable to ensure fire protection throughout products’ life. Furthermore, society increasingly considers that a possible risk is a real problem, but perception should not be allowed to trump science
- Not deteriorate polymer performance. This is difficult as FRs often necessitate high loading
- Compatibility with polymer processing. Challenging because FRs are designed to decompose in heat
- Low cost. But this is contradicted by increasing environment and health regulations and testing requirements, which are expensive for chemicals producers.
Industry therefore needs to clearly state that the perfect flame retardant cannot exist but to show that it is genuinely engaged to improve fire safety chemicals, based on science. On the other hand, the general public is increasingly safety conscious, as was shown by the public demonstrations in Romania following the Collectiv nightclub fire, Bucharest (see pinfa Newsletter n°58). The challenge for industry is to convince that flame retardants are necessary for fire safety which is desirable for society. Modern, cost-effective, internet communications tools make this feasible with limited budgets.